Love your Spleen – TCM tongue diagnosis and case study

January 3, 2011 — 96 Comments

Ahh the Spleen. Many have heard me prattle on about “the Spleen” for years and hear me say crazy things like drink warm water, chew your food, don’t eat dairy first thing in the morning. If you’re like me and love eating but want to maintain my health, then it becomes necessary to protect the two organs as the primary constituents of digestion (Spleen and Stomach). If you’ll indulge me and let me digress to the story of why this blog post originated…

My home made TCM study tool - The Five Elements Theory.

I’m thinking that 2011 is the year I’ll go back to finish my degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Being the opportunist I am, I put my degree on the backburner for 2010 to take advantage of a better offer while also temporarily satiating my travel bug and starting up foodiecure – my ever evolving, pulsating, fluctuating gourmet food and health-maitenance business. The only thing remaining on my 2010 to-do list is attend the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. Obviously not going to happen in 2010…

Anyway, I want 2011 to be “different”. I have a perpetual underlying feeling that time is getting away from me and have this dire need to make every moment count. With this need to progress, my thoughts have turned back to the golden piece of paper (insert flashing lights effect and booming cosmic voiceover) which will inherently open up doors and give me some formal cred out there on the street. With a year of not-quite-debauchery behind me, I fear that I’ve lost a lot of content and so I’ve come to write up this case study…that, and because JB and I struck a deal to trade one of his landscape photographs for eating plan and tongue diagnosis (and letting me blog about it!).

Looking at tongues in Chinese Medicine is a way to diagnose what’s going on internally, which in turn highlights what’s going on externally and emotionally. It’s really quite interesting when you think about it. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the tongue is the window to the mechanics of the body.

Understanding TCM
To help you understand a little about Chinese Medicine, you have to look at the way the medicine diagnoses and views the body as completely different from western medicine. The diagram above is my study tool I made of the Five Element Theory. Each season has corresponding colours, organs, areas of the body, tastes (the list is ongoing). Sounds whacko, but it makes sense and works once you get a grasp of it.

When reading the diagnosis below, keep an open mind. We think in Western Medicine the Spleen has nothing to do with digestion and everything about immunity. Five thousand years ago the Chinese did not have the technology we have today. In poetic, esoteric fashion they’ve linked the organs to certain functions and treat based off thousands of years of observation, meditational enlightenment and trial and error. It’s primitive, yes, but it works.

Case Study – JB

JB's tongue

The most pronounced indications I see here are:

  • Peeled tongue coating indicates a Stomach Yin deficiency
  • Tooth Marked sides indicating a Spleen Qi deficiency
  • Pale sides indicating Liver Blood deficiency

In layman’s terms this means JB needs to work on his digestion. Even though the Stomach is responsible for receiving food, in TCM it is the Spleen has an energetic function to transform this food into energy – known as Qi in TCM – and then transport the energy up to the lungs to be dispersed throughout the body. It is also through our diets that we build our blood…if stocks are low, then Liver Blood levels are low since the Liver is responsible for storing the blood.

This may sound all like gobbledygook to you, but these signs have very real implications. In JB’s case, he’s wanting to loose weight that is hard to budge considering he’s an active surfer and regards his diet as healthy. This is classic Spleen deficiency. What is happening is the food is not being transformed into Qi (or being processed properly) and thus waste is not being expelled efficiently. Instead of transforming to Qi the food stagnates and transforms into toxins which gets stored in fat tissues in a condition called damp. This is all that extra padding most people find that they cannot budge from their lower abdomen (spare tyre condition) and is often accompanied by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that doctors are often unable to explain/treat.

Stomach Yin Deficiency is a lack of stomach fluid to be able to aid in the physical digestion. The resulting symptoms can be any combination of the following*; no desire to eat, constipation, dryness in the mouth and throat, and feeling of fullness after eating. The peeling is occuring on the Stomach/Spleen and Heart regions of the tongue. There’s a bit of heat (redness) on the Heart region indicating that this fluid deficiency is giving rise to a bit of deficiency heat that is usually indicated by bleeding gums, night sweating, malar flush to name a few*.

Because his body is unable to extract nutrients properly and his blood is not being nourished, Liver Blood deficiency can lead to any number of symptoms associated with not enough blood to supply the body*; dizziness, numbness, tingling, blurred vision, muscular weakness, cramps, dry hair and skin, depression and feeling of aimlessness.

Pathologies have a flow on effect. As you can see with the Five Elements table above, a weakness with one organ has a domino effect to the other organs, and in complicated cases, can lead to opposing pathologies. We are trained in TCM to look out for these patterns to treat the underlying cause. In JB’s case, if we treat the Spleen Qi Deficiency then we can help him budge that weight, improve his digestion and subsequent absorption of nutrients and nourishment of blood. It is very common to see Spleen Qi deficiency these days due to our diets, lifestyle and microwaving of food. Happily, with a few small changes we can make a good head start…

What JB can do for himself is what I bang on about to everyone. I’ve outlined a few basic principles about Spleen/Stomach health preservation on my about page (scroll down to dot points). In short:

  • Temperature is important; primarily consume food at body temperature or warmer (not piping hot). Room temperature for salads is fine
  • Drink a glass of warm water before breakfast to prime your digestion
  • Chew your food really well
  • Best to avoid damp forming foods for breakfast such as dairy, eggs, orange juice, refined sugar and fuit on it’s own. Since I’ve just killed all your breakfast options you can try my fancy pants breakfast or my awesome oatmeal (or create your own version). Play around with different grain porridges and additions to keep it interesting. Favourites of mine include a quinoa or a brown rice porridge (made with soy or nut milk or water). Try my breakfast burrito made with scrambled tofu. Tofu is technically a damp forming food too, but ok once a week (as are eggs). Other healthful options that may require an adjustment period are: vegetable soup with lentils or beans, miso soup with vegetables and noodles added
  • On that note…always eat breakfast – and not at your desk, not driving the car, not reading or watching TV

For Spleen Qi enhancing foods, go for orange / yellow vegetables or of a sweet nature since the Spleen resonates with these vibrations (see Five Elements Theory chart above). Foods with a warming or neutral thermal nurture a deficient Spleen. Examples include:

  • well-cooked rice or a congee
  • oats
  • spelt
  • sweet rice
  • mochi (pounded sweet rice)
  • winter squash
  • carrot
  • parsnip
  • turnip
  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • peas
  • sweet potato
  • yam
  • pumpkin

Diet and lifestyle aren’t mutually exclusive by the way. There’s no point for JB to be eating certain foods if eating behaviours don’t change also. It doesn’t mean that he has to be militant about it. The aim is to get the body balanced, so your organs are working effectively and when you do have an indulgence, you can bring yourself back into harmony easily. Christmas would be a fine example for most, including myself.

What would expedite JB’s re-balancing is acupuncture and herbs. This is where a good practitioner, someone that you trust and are comfortable with, is a must for health maintenance. Finding such a person is trial and error, and may even require experimenting with different modalities.

No one is perfect but having the right tools to find balance helps escape that maze of health problems a lot of us are trapped in. I am constantly amazed at what we put up with when we don’t have to. It will seem the path to balance is like standing at the bottom of a mountain climb. My Chinese Medicine practitioner said to me Chinese Medicine is like “filling a glass with an eye dropper – one drop at a time”. So with respect to your health, in a few weeks or months you can look back and see how ‘full’ it is, but at the time it feels like nothing is happening. Pep talk completed.

So I will avoid any stereotypical closing statements in reference to New Years’ resolutions. I’m still making up my mind on mine…

*JB hasn’t expressed any of these symptoms. This is to illustrate signs of the named pathologies.

Disclaimer
This is guidance and not intended to replace qualified MD diagnosis and treatment. If you suffer from chronic and serious conditions please consult your doctor and embark on a nutritional therapy in accordance with prescribed medications.

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96 responses to Love your Spleen – TCM tongue diagnosis and case study

  1. 

    Keep up the good work

  2. 

    Quite an interesting article. Did the ancient Chinese ever have to accommodate anyone without a spleen? Can you develop spleen deficiency without one or is it just assumed that you have a deficiency?
    Also, has Chinese medicine changed much in the last 50 years or do they stick with the older time tested formulas of another time?
    From a concerned, and not quite whole, fella.

    • 

      Hey Marc! Good to see you on foodiecure – you’ve been reading lots I see! Excellent question re: no spleen, it’s tricky to explain but I’ll do my best…

      A lot of people have their gall bladder or spleen removed and if this is the case, the ‘energy’ is still there, so you can still suffer with Spleen Qi deficiency.

      Each of the 12 organs in TCM have corresponding meridian channels (meridians being the network of energy pathways – like blood vessels – that connect the whole body and is what acupuncturists tap into with needles to manipulate the energy). The reason the channels are named after organs such as Spleen, Stomach, Heart etc is that their pathways either originate or end at that particular organ they’re named after. So if the organ is no longer there, the energy pathway still is.

      Qi deficiency, excess or stagnation can relate directly to an organ, or to the energy in their corresponding channel. Through observation, trial and error, the TCM practioners of the past realised you can manipulate the energy of the Spleen channel to alleviate digestive related disorders such as nausea, bloating, loose stools, edema etc.

      With regards to the alopathic way of looking at no Spleen, it means your immunity is compromised. In TCM immunity is about the Lung Qi (which incidentally has a relationship with Spleen Qi). So in reference to this article, when I talk about ‘loving your spleen’ you can still do that on an energetic level. All the principles remain the same because despite no physical spleen being there digestion is improved with the principles mentioned. If you’re concerned about your immunity then we’d look at ways to improve your Lung Qi (a blog for another time). TCM is a convoluted way of looking at things, but it does make sense once you grasp it.

      Another good question re: changes over the past 50 years. Fundamentally the theology has remained the same. TCM is based off the 5 element theory and the Yin and Yang theory. I think with technology and science we have a greater understanding of the physiological function of organs but since we trade in energetics for the most part, then treatment principles have remained. From the studies I have done, we were learning about treatment principles (acupuncture and herbal formulas) that are centuries old, but the nature of TCM means that each practitioner has their own unique way. For example, I’m a more gentle practitioner while some of my classmates like to needle really hard or use more needles or have more complex herbal formulas. Likewise with patients, some like it hard while others – like myself – prefer a gentler treatment (no pun intended!).

      Hope that has helped clarify some of your questions :)

      • 

        Hi there very interesting stuff ‘ although does it work the same way as you wrote above if you we’re born with out a spleen? I know with the digestive system and immunity to be comprised is accurate as I myself have had colitis at the age of 5yrs old and auto immune problems. What would you suggest with this info to do?

      • 

        Energetically, yes! Your Spleen is still there and “treatable”. This is the beauty in the difference between both Western and Eastern med- we treat the energetic, western treats the physical.

        Look after yourself, xx

  3. 
    Christina Bowden June 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Thanks nice article. Do you offer your homemade TCM study tool as a pdf? Cool chart, just began studying TCM @ 8 months ago.

  4. 

    Blessings .. I discovered that my dependent edema is related to Spleen deficiency. From reading your article it sounds like I’m heading int he right direction towards resolving the health issue. I use to begin my morning with raw apples and pears. I’ve switched to ginger tea and glutten-free oatmeal. Thank you

    • 

      Yes, the Spleen and odema are very intimately connected in Chinese Medicine and with a little effort on choosing the right foods, eating for the seasons and a couple of other mindful eating principles outlined in the About pages of this blog you can certainly assist your Spleen/digestion to do it’s job. Happy to hear you’ve switched the raw apples and pears first thing int he morning to more warming and nurturing foods. Oats are fabulous for the spleen first thing in the morning, gentle on the digestion (just make sure its cooked with water not milk) and sweet in nature. Sweet resonates with the Spleen helping it perform it’s job – but I’m not talking about sickly sugar sweet – and breakfast time of 7 – 9am is the time when the Spleen is at it’s most strongest so getting breakky right, to me, is getting your day started right. All the best! x

      • 

        Can you tell if having dried organic apples as a sweetener ok with oatmeal? I seem to crave sweet after a meal. I have ginger cookies that are gluten, wheat and dairy-free (Pamela”s Ginger cookies w/almond slices.

      • 

        Technically no, but it depends on how strict you want to go with it. And that’s really up to you and how you feel and any ailments (if any) that you’re trying to clear up. If you are going to have it, apples are on the “ok if you have to” list. It sounds very yummy, I might try it too!
        Craving sweet after a meal is usually a sign of spleen deficiency. Try having a chamomile tea or other herbal tea (without sweetener of course). It won’t satisfy you if you’re still having sugar during the day because of the significant addictive nature of sugar. The only way to combat that is do give up sugar for a while. It helped me a lot with this craving. And the cravings have only come back in the past few days since I’ve been eating more sugar than I have in the past 3 months (thanks to PMS!)
        You can try baking your own cookies using the naturally derived xylitol – Sarah Wilson says that this is ok because it doesn’t give you the sugar-addiction loop.

  5. 

    Hi! I would like to say thanks for your blog and information on what to eat for a healthy spleen. I am a Singaporean Chinese and seeing Chinese practitioners on a regular basis are a way of life here for us. But so far, my Chinese doc hasn’t recommended healthy foods for me to eat so your blog is a great help. Thanks again.

  6. 

    Hi ive got a spleen weakness i tend to be quite run down a lot i also bloat and cant eat wheat products can you help?

    • 

      Hi there, the way we look at the Spleen in TCM is that it is central to digestion – even though the stomach physically receives the food. To treat the Spleen via dietary therapy is eat simply- no complex meals – chew thoroughly, warm drink and food. Primarily eat broth based soups and congees. I recently got onto pro biotics which I am finding very beneficial to digestion (spleen/stomach) system. Steer clear of sugar including fruit sugar for a while since sweet weakens the spleen.
      Even though this doesn’t make sense in a western medicine way, treating the spleen based off TCM principles sees a direct correlation to helping spleen ailments in a allopathic medicine sense.

      Make sure you go through the channels by getting a check up to rule out something more chronic.
      Let me know how you go!

  7. 

    Hi i just realise i have being suffering from spleen deficiency. I am always weak and usually need rest after eating. I bloat a lot, always suffer from constipation and lose stool. I would like to know the relationship to PCOS. I usually have tommy pains, i feel weak and under duress. But in my own case i don’t have tongue peels, but white coatings.

  8. 

    Hi .
    I am so confused about Oats..some people say “Damp forming” other say not?
    What is your personal thoughts..as I see you include them here .
    Im avoiding them at present as have a severe damp heat condition ( largely through years of Raw Food eating – Wish I had never gone down that road..) But I dont anymore.

    Also Despite having a slim body and being slightly underweight I still feel I have “chubby puffy cheeks” which just dont correspond to my body , they have been getting better as of late i think as a result of trying to fix the spleen – but do you think that the fat face look is a manifestation of the damp?
    Kind Regards.

    • 

      Hi Ross,
      Oats, in my experience and research are not damp forming. There might be some confusion because they have a sweet nature, sweet being the flavor that perpetuates damp because of its effect on the Spleen. So, it is rather confusing!!
      Oats gently warming and nurturing and benefit the Spleen. From my experience though, this is only cooked oats. Raw are much harder on the digestion and you have to be careful an chew thoroughly. I would recommend only cooked oats for this reason.

      Of course anything in excess will cause a pathology, so if you eat oats 3 meals a day then, yes, probably damp forming. I eat porridge every morning for years, occasionally having eggs or rice porridge or quinoa. I definitely feel the difference (not in a good way) when I don’t eat oats.

      Without a diagnosis it’s hard to say if yr chubby cheeks are result of damp. Damp traditionally sinks because it’s heavy by nature…that’s where people get the “spare tyre the middle” syndrome. Heat and Wind could be causal factors, and would be diagnosable by your other signs and symptoms and case history.

      That’s interesting to hear your reflections on being a raw foodist. I think in western society we dont comprehend the power of the diet, both good and bad. Sorry to hear the damage you’ve experienced. It will take some time to heal so stick with a healing plan and TCM treatments. Damp heat is a hard one to budge (I have that myself) and requires persistence and patience. Do check out the About pages here for some eating guidelines that assist digestion…working with the natural flow of energy of the body to help heal.

      • 

        Thank you so much for your reply and advise on oats .
        Id like to incorporate them again as loved them .
        Thanks also for
        your wonderful article and site
        Damp Heat is so difficult your right.. I just cant seem to shift it so I will indeed check out your about page. :)

      • 

        no worries! I also forgot to add, don’t cook the oats in milk – that is definitely damp forming.
        Like with all pathologies, there’s an emotional element. So also take emotional healing into consideration with your physical healing. Becki :)

  9. 

    Umm.. Can you give me some more imformation about TCM? I am still struggling which course to choose for my degree.. ><
    I don't know what i was interest in but i was pretty sure that i found TCM quite interesting for me and i like to read those books about it…
    And what do you think about the TCM today and the future trends of it in this world?

    • 

      Hi Bernard, If you’re after more TCM info, there is plenty of information available on the web. Figure out what you’re passionate about – it’ll take some research and time – to get a sense of what you’re willing to commit to with study.
      Of course I think there’s a place for TCM today – I’ve invested a lot of time and money into my own education! :)
      Trends? Well overall, the wellness trend is on the incline. I also notice people are more open to alternatives medicines these days. It would be interesting to do studies on it.
      All the best, Becki

  10. 

    i´m happy i ´ve found your work , congratulations and thank you very much for sharing what you know !!!!! much health and love to you!
    maria

  11. 

    wow im having all these challenges thanks for posting this article i will be working on curing my challenge since i know mostly what herbs i need to take i know just the right tonic herbs / formulas thank you.

  12. 

    Hi, i was having symptoms of the spleen qi deficiency. I don’t know what to eat, everything in my house is stuff i can not eat. I can’t go buy food because i am not working right now and i live with my aunt and uncle. Lately ive barely been eating because my tongue feels weird and turns pale. Please help.

  13. 

    i have just learned of all this in the past day. Since I crave sugar in tea, oats, and practically everything and have a week spleen per Chinese dr. Can I use Stevia or Splenda as a way to sweeten as I work to cut down. I feel that my heallthy diet is everything on the list not to eat, but want to do it right.

  14. 

    My spleen was removed due to a car accident. Since then over the years i’ve put on a lot of weight & can’t seem to lose it. I also retain a lot of fluid. I had my gall bladder removed too a few years ago. I suffer from different diseases & I would love to lose weight & feel better. Could you please offer me any advice ?

    • 

      Hi Debbie, even though your physical spleen has been removed, the energy remains, therefore in TCM we would still treat the Spleen. We know in western med that the stomach receives food….it’s the energetic function that the Spleen plays in digestion – whether it’s there physically or not. If you were to get acupuncture they would still treat the Spleen channel. Rather a weird concept for Western minds to wrap our head around.
      Definitely still follow the Spleen principles when eating. Don’t try to think of it too literally, as there’s not direct translation and it wont make sense :)

  15. 

    very interesting blog, all the information i was looking for in one place :-).

    My life has changed to better since a lost excess fat, completely cut the refined sugar/flour, processed food and now i eat more steamed/grilled vegetables, grains, legumes, less animal protein *only organic chicken 1-2 times a week* and don’t eat cold raw fruits/vegetables.

    I’m just loving myself and my beautiful organs and i feel that they’re thanking me every day for treating them so well 

    Thanks, please keep us updated.

  16. 

    Thank you so much for your blog! I have been suffering from a number of things for quite some time – I have swelling in my calves, rashes on my legs and acne on my face, bloating, back/neck pain and irritability. I see an acupuncturist/herbalist here in the states and I’m very fortunate that he has determined that I have a spleen deficiency. I am on herbs and he is giving me information about what foods to eat and not to eat. We also do ART. This blog confirms everything and also clarifies my damp heat. Some of the concepts are still hard to wrap my head around and this blog helps me confirm why I’m not supposed to have raw vegetables and cold foods. I love oatmeal in the morning. Is it okay to have grade B maple syrup as a sweetener? I read your earlier responses about sugar, but I am trying to determine whether these natural sources are okay. Also, can I have salad if everything is left out in room temperature before eating?

    • 

      Thanks for your wonderful comments Tara! Yes TCM is definitely not easy to wrap one’s head around…and the more we learn the more we know there’s even more to learn.
      I did a post about the raw food diet (visit it here: http://foodiecure.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/in-the-raw-an-essay-and-a-review-yongs-green-foods/). It is important to note that if you have Spleen deficiency, it’s important to treat the spleen first, before trying to treat other digestive problems – including amping up vitamin and mineral intake if you feel you’re deficient. If your spleen is defunct then you wont be taking in nutrients anyway.
      Oatmeal is fantastic for breakfast – especially for spleen deficiency. Try to wean off the sugar including maple syrup (visit http://www.sarahwilson.com.au for an excellent quit sugar program). It all depends on the natural sweetener you’re using. They each have different biological effects.
      Lastly, in relation to your salad question. If you must eat salad only eat on warm days, and yes left out of the refrigerator is best. Chew very very well. Otherwise, try making a salad with lightly steamed vegetables. The eat from cooking adds warmth to the properties of food – and is what you need as a spleen deficient type.
      Can you tell me what ART is? I’m not familiar with this term.
      All the best x

  17. 

    I love raw veggies and salads (along with most other foods too) and I don’t like my salads cold. Is it still ok to have these things at room temp or even a little warmed up? Or should I avoid the raw things? My acupuncturist told me from looking at my tongue that I have spleen deficiency (I think that’s how she put it). I don’t eat much dairy (some cheese but no milk, stopped that several months back). I love meat but try to keep it reasonable. My older brother recently passed away from pancreatic cancer; it was also in his spleen and liver. I want to avoid that at all costs. I had tests done and they said my innards looked ok but I have had kind of numbing pain in my gall bladder since my late 20s (I’m 56 now). Some foods will make my stomach feel like it’s boiling when I eat them. My regular Dr put me on omeprazol for 4 months, the symptoms were somewhat relieved but still there. I prefer to do this without drugs. I’d rather treat the problem instead of the symptoms. I hope you can give me some good advice.

  18. 

    Hi there, thank you for the very useful information. I have a question: What should a person who is suffering from both spleen AND kidney qi deficiency eat? I have a very long standing spleen qi deficiency and recently I also lost the functions of my left kidney due to a large stone. I was wondering what the best treatment/diet would be in my case. Many thanks :)

    • 

      Keep your diet simple and basic and follow the foodiecure principles (as outlined in the health pages). There are some foods good for Kidney Qi but I think as long as you eat nourishing and warm foods you will also fortify the kidneys. If you have kidney stones there could be other dietary and lifestyle factors at play.

  19. 

    Hi, I think I am spleen deficient cause everytime I see a tcm physician, they always say that. I also know my liver is not working well too cause I always seem to have dark rings no matter how much I sleep, I still feel tired and weak lungs too cause I have drippy nose in air con environment.

    I know using tcm to atune our bodies will take a very long time and currently, I purchased some off the shelf tcm pills for spleen and liver. (Seeing a tcm physician on a weekly basis for a long period of time is very expensive!! :( …)

    Could you please advise how long should I consume them? Also, how would the spleen and liver react if there is an overdosage of such supplements? How would I know that my spleen and liver are fully nourished so that I can stop consuming the pills?

    Could you please advise?

    Thanks. :)

    • 

      Often spleen and liver disharmony occur together.

      Always always follow your practitioners or recommend dosage. Never over or self medicate- just like pharmaceuticals you are having a biological effect.

      TCM treatment will take longer as it is correcting a disharmony that has existed for a while. Still, if you feel I satisfied try a different practitioner. There is a lot of healing alone in the practitioner / client relationship.

      I suffer a runny nose myself and when I got completely off sugar (visit http://www.sarahwilsonsblog.com.au) this cleared up…that is until I went back on sugar. I too have spleen/liver disharmony so would say that is also contributing – a sluggish spleen will generate damp!

      Good luck in your health journey, long term health is a wise investment. X

  20. 

    Hi becki! wow so excited to find your site- I was wondering……Do you have any information on juicing? My family and I make fresh green juice or carot-beet every day-we drink about 16 oz a day at any point(not necessarily in the morning). I have a spleen deficiency(so says my acupuncturist–who has prescribed herbs but has not given me any food tips). I do eat a lot of salads, smoothies etc and now from your blog really realise that I need to eat more warm and warming things/cooked things……but do you have any info/thoughts about juice? Should I lessen/cut down on them? as it’s a raw food? would really love your insite……

    • 

      Hi Michelle, aww thank you!
      Yes, from a TCM point of view, juices and salads are considered very cold and damp forming and will further damage your spleen function. Generally fruit juices are only recommended if undertaking a short term fast in spring or summer or you’re of a hot and excess constitution in which case you need the cooling. What nutritionists don’t consider is the properties of foods or action on the digestive function in their prescriptions. See the net nutrients you absorb will be far less then if you have digestive promoting foods and dishes, especially if you have pre-existing Spleen Qi deficiency.

      If you’re concerned about nutrients, eat plenty of vegetables with dark green leafy at each meal (this includes culinary herbs too!). Always eat biodynamic and organic – these have by far more nutrients than conventional produce. And chew really well.

      Eat oatmeal in the morning (you can add stewed fruits, berries, medicinal herbs, superfoods etc – play around with what you like), and have soups, stews and cooked vegetables etc for lunches and dinner. Experiment with herbs, seasonings, textures and toppings to keep things interesting (and keep reading the blog for more inspiration!).

      If you must have your juice, have it with some ginger, after some warm water and slightly diluted. xx

      • 

        wow….this is abundant and super helpful information…. So happy that you write this blog. I’m giving more cooked foods a chance in my life. it’ll be a bit of a change for me….but managable. You’re other post In the Raw: an essay and a review -really was helpful too….. Can’t wait to read you more :)

  21. 

    Hi!
    I have a new symptom that my tongue is going numb, generally more the middle part and I have toothmarks along the sides. The tooth marks I think are spleen qi deficiency but can the numbness be related to the spleen too?
    Thanks for great reads!!

    • 

      Hi there Fillippa, toothmarks are definitely a sign of Spleen Qi deficiency. I haven’t encountered a numb tongue before and isn’t one of the tongue diagnosis factors (we look at shape, colour, coating, cracks etc to indicate state of internal organs).
      Usually numbness and tingles relate to blood and/or Qi stagnation or deficiency. I’ve never heard of it on the tongue, but there’s an extra meridian called the Ren/Conception vessel that runs up the front midline and ends in the mouth. In the 5 elements philosophy it could relate to Summer/Heart/Bitter/Red, of which the tongue is the related sense organ. It could even relate to something physical like something you’ve eaten recently, a sustained injury or of emotional cause.
      You can see here how intricate TCM is. It’s not an a = b type of thing. There’s many different causes to a symptom and vice versa. So it’s more like a + b + m + j = x. Get what I mean? We add up the whole scenario, which takes proper questioning and diagnosis to make an accurate assessment.
      So without a proper diagnosis I can’t really help you. If it’s of concern, go seek out a TCM doctor to help you.
      xx

      • 

        Thanks for a great reply! I’m an acupuncture and shiatsu student myself and this morning I had an urge to put a needle in Lu7 which would rime very well with your Ren comment. It also feels blood related so I added Spleen 4 to bring in the Sea of Blood to help to rise the energy to the tongue. We haven’t done tongue diagnosis yet so your post was helpful!

        I first thought it had to do with too spicy Thai food but it’s been over a month w no change so now I’m moving into herbs, feels like Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang might do the trick…

        Great new energy in my life your blogg!
        Love
        Filippa

      • 

        Very cool! How far into yr studies are you ? Love that ur giving yrself acu! Let me know what works or if u uncover the aetiology of the numb tongue…it’s intriguing.
        Very happy to recieve feedback yr enjoying foodiecure :) xx

  22. 

    Last week at an acupuncture session, I was told that my
    body was “damp” and I needed to work on my spleen. The
    recommendations about what to eat here are very helpful. Thank
    you!

    • 

      My pleasure! Hopefully it’s not too overwhelming. Ensure you give it a bit of time…stick with it…damp is hard to move but I have applied the principles myself and seen results with others – it really works!
      A little light exercise does wonders too in conjunction with the eating principles. X

  23. 

    Hi Becki, I’ve just been looking over the forum here and its been helpful in my quest to cure spleen qi deficiency. I have a question: would it be beneficial to drink homemade chicken/bone stock for several days (as a liquid cleanse) in order to give the digestion a break? Or is a liquid diet going to make the problem worse? I’ve been contemplating doing a 7 day chicken stock cleanse to see if that helps. Many thanks for your time.

    • 

      I’m so glad to recieve your comments Tara. YES chicken bone stock is very beneficial. chicken is highly nourishing and is an excellent Qi tonic. Keep an eye on your tongue over the liquid cleanse…if you start to get a thick coating, maybe time to return to normal. I don’t know much about this sort of cleanse, but initially my thoughts are if it’s warm and nourishing it’ll give your digestion a much needed break. Just make sure you listen to your body. Don’t push it, that’ll cause more damage and be reverse to what you’re drying to achieve. Also drastic changes in diet can be quite severe. Try a 3 day cleanse first, see how your body reacts. Don’t forge to use organic chicken bones. :)

  24. 

    The following posting, “Love your Spleen – TCM tongue diagnosis and case study foodiecure” demonstrates that
    u know exactly what u r talking about! I really definitely am in agreement.
    Thanks a lot -Ramiro

    • 

      Why thank you Ramiro. Hope you’re enjoying foodiecure :)

      • 

        Thanks so much! I appreciate your input! I’ll be starting a trial run of a chicken stock cleanse (completely homemade with organic chicken bones) this Sunday…do it for a few days and see how it goes.

  25. 

    Great article and wonderful advice, thanks. Just wondering what about exercising? I find I get really hot. I too surfer from a damp spleen, I swear it is making my hotflashes/menopause worse. So not sure about the exercise side of it. Thsnks

    • 

      TCM advocates only light exercise – huffing and puffing on a treadmill is a western concept and doesn’t take into consideration individual constitutions.

      Gentle exercise like brisk walks, tai qi, yoga and qi gong are excellent and very powerful – do not be fooled by the lack of vigorous movement. It’s intentional movement which can build strength and preserve Qi. It also helps free flow of qi which can help with the hot flushes.
      Look after yourself,
      Becki xx

  26. 

    It’s me again…roma, first I want to apologize for my spelling on my last comment. I wanted to say I suffer(not surfer)! And of course thanks not Thsnks! Lazy typing. I actually had another question in which I forgot to add in my last comment. I had some pu’erh tea, I looked it up and it said that pu’erh tea is considered to open up the meridians, ‘warm the middle burner’(the spleen and stomach). So I am assuming this is what I want? My acupuncturists said my spleen is damp hence why I am always warm? Does this make any sense? Very confusing. Again thanks!

    • 

      Hi Roma,
      Damp doesn’t necessarily equal heat – however over time, long term damp will stagnate and it’s the stagnation that leads to heat. Not always, but can happen.

      The tea you bought sounds like its Ayervedic – which is traditional Indian medicine. I don’t know much of Ayerveda but there is a lot of cross over, it’s just terminology is different too. If it promotes digestion it will be gently warming to the Spleen (good) and aromatic (great for moving damp). Sounds perfect for you. Steer clear of foods that generate heat (beef, chilli, cinnamon too much ginger and garlic) or damp (dairy, eggs, raw foods, cold foods, tofu, too many animal products, sugar sweet foods).
      Look after yourself, Becki xx

  27. 

    Would it be ok to use Honey with the oatmeal for breakfast? Thanks

    • 

      Absolutely. From a TCM standpoint honey is exceptionally health promoting. Use unrefined raw honey to get health benefits.

      If you already have a lot of sugar in your diet, then switch to stevia or even start to wean yourself off sugar all together. You’ll begin to notice how naturally sweet oats are.
      Look after yourself, Becki x

  28. 

    I’ve been diagnoses with Spleen qi def with cold dampness. How much sleep do I need? I feel that 6 hours is not enough. And also How much water should I drink a day? I’ve noticed If I drink too much my abdomen and face (around mouth) will swell up. Thank you !

  29. 

    hello . I have been told that i have a spleen deficiency ( i run a chocolate business and so think the sugar may be related !!) I have heard that a little mollasses and dates each day are ok for the spleen. Any thoughts? i know that the spleen craves sugar .. but i also feel that asides from my moments of feeling that i am craving sweets .. i have moments when i feel that my body would like it … i have nevre ben able to give up sweet things 100 % which is why i like the chinese philosophy re. balance ..

    • 

      Hi Ana,
      Thanks for your note. The spleen only will “crave” sugar if there’s an imbalance. In saying this, it’s resonant taste is sweet – this can mean mild sweet such as sweet potato, pumpkin, oats etc can tonight the spleen. Extreme sweet such as sugar and too much honey will damage spleen Qi.

      In your case it seems the later. Look at your tongue in the mirror; does it have tooth marks? Is there a thick white coat? Does it look claggy? Big indicators of spleen deficiency and resulting pathology of damp.

      Begin to turn this around by following advice on the about page. Damp an spleen deficiency do take a while to budge so stick with it…in time you’ll be better then ever!

      To wean yourself off sugar I highly recommend downloading Sarah Wilson’s I quit sugar ebook (google it). Even if you don’t get 100% sugar free (who can?) it’ll help you manage cravings and cut down the majority of your intake.

      Let me know how you get on.
      Look after yourself,
      Becki x

  30. 

    Hello
    I’m a 24 year old athlete who has recently been struck with some serious and consistant fatigue for the past 2 weeks. Through chance I heard of spleen qi def and I seemed to have all the symptoms, pale tooth marked tongue, heavy weak limbs and so on.
    My question is, with the proper diet and acupuncture how long until my energy starts to return to me. I hate feeling this way

    • 

      Hi Max – let me put it this way. Chinese Medicine is like filling a glass with water by an eyedropper. Every time you go, another few drops go in. It may not seem like the glass is ever going to get filled, eventually it will. Stick with it, you’re doing the best thing to help recover. And as long as you resist, it will take longer.

      Everyone is so individual an it depends on how many treatments you’re getting per week, how receptive your body is, how well your eating, your emotions etc. It sounds as if you’ve run yourself into a hole if you’re only 24, just be patient and do the best you can. And keep getting acu and herbs.
      Look after yourself xx

  31. 

    “Love your Spleen – TCM tongue diagnosis and case study | foodiecure” Window Shades And Blinds actually got
    me simply addicted with your internet page! I actuallywill probably wind up being
    back again far more normally. With thanks ,Alfonso

  32. 

    Good info! I havea bit of the teeth imprints on my tongue, and other than that, seems to be ok. I thought that was just a dental thing. I love salads and room temp foods, eggs. Apparently, I can’t have cold salads and eggs often?

    • 

      Hi Jamie, no I wouldn’t recommend salads or eggs often – by the sounds of it, you have what we call Spleen Qi deficiency – the “spleen” being the primary “organ” in TCM for extracting energy from the food we eat. The Spleen doesn’t like “damp” forming foods – dairy, eggs, tofu, cold and raw foods.
      Foods you might want to concentrate on eating: soups, roasted, baked, stir frying. Depending on the season however – Spring/summer keep it light withs stirfries and steamed foods, winter go warmer with roasting, braising, slow cooking.

  33. 

    PS – Does panic disorder show up on the tongue? Mine seems pretty regular looking other than the sight teeth marks on the sides.

    • 

      Excellent question! In TCM symptoms – such as panic disorder – can have multiple patterns causing the symptom. This is why TCM can be more accurate and superior to Western Medicine (shameless plug) because we take into consideration the individual.
      Panic disorder and anxiety can show up as red tipped tongue, or no change whatsoever. We can also get clues to the quality of the pulse, but that’s a little harder to explain over a blog and takes years of practice to perfect.

  34. 

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you
    have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

  35. 

    This is a great blog post, and one I will have to refer back to many times! Thank you! I recently went to a TCM acupuncturist to inquire about a weight loss program they had advertised. I was diagnosed as having excess damp heat in liver and spleen (something like that anyhow). The diet I was given to follow seems to contradict what I’ve been reading however – Breakfast = 1 hard boiled egg and glass of grapefruit juice. Lunch = salad and hard boiled egg. Supper = small serving of lean meat and variety of cooked vegetables. I was told I could eat apples and hard boiled eggs anytime for a snack. I’ve been reading a lot now that says I should avoid eggs and apples, fruit juice and raw vegetables. Help! I don’t want to contradict my practitioner, but think she gave me a basic weight loss diet, but not one that is specific to my condition.

    • 

      hi MP,
      Yeesh, that doesn’t sound like the right kind of diet she put you on…doesn’t even sound appealing. Eggs, eggs and more eggs. Sounds like you’re doing your research and for that I applaud you. I’m sorry you’ve gotten such terrible and contradicting advice. Foodiecure pages contain eating principles from Chinese Medicine – with a 5,000 year history. It’s not a fad. It’s not made up by me. I just tout it. Stick to cooked, soups, bit of cooling, balance of flavours (salty, bitter, sour, pungent, sweet) – no one in excess, but a bit of sour will help dry the damp and bitter will help drain it), easy to digest and a bit of gentle exercise.
      Look after yourself,
      Becki x

  36. 

    I enjoy your way of writing truly enjoy this web site.

  37. 
    US Registered Nurse July 11, 2013 at 2:12 am

    I have seen TCM practitioners for a few problems over the years. Spleen was mentionedin years past, but the word Damp only came up at this visit. That term is a little easier to research.
    I was wondering about non-dairy milks such as Almond, Hazelnut or Coconut. I like to use them in my oatmeal. I also like peanut and almond butters.

    • 

      Hi there,
      non-dairy is generally not as damp forming as dairy. Soy milk is still pretty up there though. Nuts a damp forming – all those naturally occurring oils and all – but are better options if you’re looking for alternatives. If you want completely damp-free, go with rice milk. It looks watery, but don’t let appearances put you off. It’s delicious and ought to be used more than it is – especially for children.
      Peanuts and almond butters are also damp forming. Use sparingly if you’re concerned about weight around the middle or lots of phlegm related and digestive problems.
      Look after yourself,
      Becki xx

  38. 

    Hi and chapeau on all the info u r generating/very nice twist of yin yand foodie epicurian! i would like to know if the left side of tongue is partially peeled- geographic islands or more like just left sided slightly a patch is peeled off what and a slight crease in front (lu? ht?) and what would be the remedial advice for such aimlessness… funny that the liv/gb are on right side of torso but the left side of tongue could refer to these organs or st yin def or spleen chi def? it is funny that this condition comes and goes but i havent figured out what causes it and what exactly rebalances it!

  39. 

    Thank you for your article! My medical doctor told me years ago my geographical tongue was hereditary- nothing to worry about. However, I recently started going to an Acupuncturist for low back pain/spasms- I never thought how my other symptoms (sweatiness, lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, PMS) and my tongue could all be related!! I have also started a Chinese herbal regimen and I am excited for this healing journey. My question is, I donate blood fairly often. Is this ok to do, and how often would you recommend me doing it?

    • 

      Hi AP, so wonderful you’ve found Chinese Medicine and it seems to be working for you. It is a journey, but the more we learn the more we know ourselves and can help ourselves. Shame Western Med hasn’t caught up yet…

      It’s awful to say it, but I’m not an advocate of donating blood UNLESS you’re an excess type of person – full heat symptoms (not to be confused with deficient heat symptoms), boundless energy, usually male, not at risk of anaemia.

      Us women loose precious blood monthly. I say precious because in both Western and Eastern Medicine, blood is life, blood is energy, blood feeds and nourishes our body – that is why we’re encouraged to donate. Yet, if you don’t have enough to give, then taking what you don’t have is detrimental to your own health (read my aeroplane analogy here: http://foodiecure.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/why-bother-cooking-my-aeroplane-analogy-and-top-10-kitchen-shorthand/)

      Physically, “they” say we replenish our blood. In the WM world, they don’t acknowledge the energetic component – why would they? They can’t test for it. In TCM we do, we CAN test for the energetic component through pulse and tongue diagnosis (no fancy equipment necessary). Tonifying blood is one of the hardest things to achieve; it’s a balance between right food, efficient digestion, adequate sleep (and at the right times), emotionally balanced etc. Then if you add in pregnancies, birthing, breastfeeding, well, really right there it’s evident we need to save the nourishment to keep ourselves functioning.

      Already from some of your symptoms provided, it looks like you don’t have enough blood (physical and energetic) to spare. Confirm this by looking at your tongue in the mirror – is it pale? Are the creases on your palm pale or a nice fleshy pink? Lack of energy is a key symptom right there.

      If you really want to donate blood, and it’s important to you, make sure you are in bed early. We make blood between 10pm and 12am. Eat lamb ~3 x week, medium cooked. Eat lots of red foods. And follow the eating principles outlined on the about pages of this blog to ensure your digestion is in tip-top shape to efficiently extract nutrients to help make more blood.
      Look after yourself,
      Becki xx

  40. 

    I have a problem with my spleen according to my homeopath. I have the teeth marks and other problems. Also she said my pancreas is not doing good. She had told me to eat bitter melons. Any info about the effects of bitter melon and the spleen? I am going to try the warming foods also. She said to eat lots of soup. An cut out most things you have mentioned. Great info thank you

    • 

      Hi Sharon, I’m not well versed in the properties of bitter melon – but thanks for the prompt, I’ll look it up. Sometimes there’s variation in the foods recommend between Naturopaths and TCM practitioners. Naturally one being Western and the other Eastern meant that different food-stuffs were available.
      Definitely lots of warm and bland foods to build up your digestive Qi. 99% of the posts here relate to digestive health which all loops back to Spleen/Pancreas. Look after yourself, Becki xx

  41. 

    Hi. Thanks for all of your wonderful guidance. I have had heat/cold related issues my whole life. I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s. Sometimes heat in my hands, feet and face. Sometimes cold. I have “pounding” in my spleen. But I have more trouble with heat and insomnia at night. Worse between 11pm and 3am. Liver. I know the best thing is to focus on my spleen (ridges on side of my tongue, white coating) and sometimes I lose my sense of taste. So it’s damp heat, and a fever late in the day. I do sometimes get chills. How can I cool off and still love my spleen? I’m worn out.
    Thanks so much!

    • 

      Hi Jen, without a full case history taking it’s a bit hard for me to give accurate advice. Best thing is to get regular acupuncture and herbs from a qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor. Stick with it, you’ll find results will vary depending on how responsive you are to treatments and how well you stick to lifestyle dietary advice. Take the time to find a practitioner you resonate with.
      One thing I can say, is careful with ‘cooling off the spleen’. The Spleen doesn’t have a tendency to overheat so I’m not sure where you got this terminology from. Spleen likes warming and moist – cold foods tend to damage the spleen further. Alternatively, if anything needs cooling off, it would be the Liver. That is why I recommend you see a practitioner to get on some herbs.
      Look after yourself, Becki xx

      • 

        Thanks Becki. Just to clarify, I didn’t say my spleen was over heated. I said I had pounding in my spleen. I also have insomna and heat in my hands, feet and face at night. I was asking how to take care of my spleen and still manage to cool my body so that I can sleep. The closest TCM practitioner is over 2 hours away. He put me on a spleen tonic that over-heated my body and made my symptoms worse. It had licorice in it, which etrogenically aggravated my liver. So, I was hoping for dietary help. I am gluten free, and have also simply been following Spleen dietary guidelines. But I understand it is difficult to help without seeing someone in person.

      • 

        Hi Jen, Sounds as if you have mixed patterns, so it will come down to a skilled practitioner to treat in the right order – treating the root of the problem rather than the branch. Treating your Spleen with adverse results sounds as is the Spleen Qi xu is secondary to say, Liver Qi stagnation where the Liver is over exuberant and suppresses the Spleen’s action. The herbs might have been too cloying for your pattern.

        Also sounds as is there’s a heat condition. Judging by the time of day and where you’re expressing you’re getting hot, that it’s a deficient heat – meaning Yin deficiency that is causing your heat symptoms (as opposed to a Yang excess full heat condition). Building Yin is one of the hardest things to achieve and takes a long time. Don’t let that put you off, rest assured you’re developing good lifestyle practices while you’re healing yourself. We live in a very Yang world, so first and foremost you have to change your lifestyle that is more yin building; time with nature (hug a tree – seriously!), adequate sleep/rest (bed before 10pm is ideal), Qi Gong/Tai Chi/Yoga exercises, gardening, meditation, devotional practices (like prayer, gratitude, thankfulness), time with animals, love, compassion and then Yin building foods and herbs. With any dietary therapy it’s paramount to protect the Spleen. Visit the About page on this blog for how to eat to protect the Spleen. Learn to make a nice tasting congee and eat lots of it, that will help moisten Yin and protect your Spleen.
        Becki xxx

      • 

        Becki. Thank you so much. Your kindness and gift for TCM has helped me just when I needed it most. I will remember that kindenss with each bite of congee I take. With deep appreciation—Jen.

      • 

        That’s fabulous Jen! You take care of you — you’re doing the right thing by educating and empowering yourself. Xxx

  42. 

    PS–that should say “estrogenically”.

  43. 

    hi , I have been on a paleo diet since April and havent had any alcohol since July. My energy feels better but i still have congestion. I have avoided some damp foods like eggs, avocados, bananas that I used to eat daily. I am feeling less mucous but my tongue has always had a line down the middle (candida) and teeth marks on the side with a whiite film sometimes. I know I have been getting rid of yeast for years so maybe you get more mucus as you detox……..Anything more that can help for warming……i think I need more warming for my spleen/stomach. Kat

    • 

      Hi Kat, Sounds like you have stomach yin deficinency more than candida, indicated by the tongue crack. Candida would appear very swollen, tooth marks, thick white sticky coat plus a host of other signs and symptoms.
      You don’t want to over-warm the stomach or you’ll put out the ‘digestive fire’. Gently warming with a bit of ginger steeped in water, using armoatic and warming spices like fennel seed, cardamon are good too. But you need to build your stomach Yin too – build up those fluids.That’s a blog post in itself and I’ll endevour to get around to writing one soon (as soon as exams are over) :D
      Look after yourself,
      x Becki

  44. 

    what probiotics would you suggest? i saw an article on dr mercola web site about probiotics.

    • 

      Hi Stan, I prefer consuming fermented foods (un pasteurised) with bountiful good bacteria and pre-biotics rather than taking any manufactured supplements. Foods you can try: sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, apple cider vinegar for starters.
      Look after yourself, Becki x

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